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Get Your RDS on With New NRSC Guideline

RDS implementation document available, so too, are updated AM standards

The National Radio Systems Committee has placed its new RDS guideline document on its Website along with three revised AM standards.

Engineers voted on the changes at the recent Radio Show and had them under a final review before release.

The guideline is a nuts-and-bolts resource, meant for an engineer in the field who’s trying to implement RDS, according to NRSC Chairman Milford Smith, who’s also vice president of engineering at Greater Media.

With the advent of digital radio systems, most notably the FCC’s authorization of HD Radio digital in 2002, broadcasters have been upgrading their infrastructures to support data broadcasting at an accelerated rate, and one consequence of this has been a dramatic increase in the use of the RDS FM subcarrier, notes the authors of the report. Recognizing this, the NRSC is publishing this guideline to help broadcasters and receiver manufacturers make the best use of RDS technology and provide a more useful and consistent RDS experience for consumers.

For example, the document gets into the nitty-gritty of how often the various components in a digital bitstream should be transmitted, and in what order, “so that your display looks nice and is appropriately updated at the proper intervals so the data stays current,” Smith told Radio World.

The document is meant to be used by those wanting to implement RDS at their FM for the first time, or, “If the complexity of your RDS transmissions has increased because you’re now using additional types of data services, like traffic information, this document is a valuable resource as to how to do that,” Smith said.

Why is the RDS guideline important now as radio faces a plethora of competitors in the dash?

Smith says not only is RDS being used by more stations now, consumers are getting used to seeing the information that RDS provides to analog radios on various other audio sources like Pandora or SiriusXM. “They expect to see song, title and artist, call letters, and in some cases, station slogans.” That’s in addition to the traffic services from Clear Channel and the Broadcast Traffic Consortium which use “a sliver of the RDS signal” to transport that data.

“So these services are not only being used more intensively, but they’re more critical in terms of maintaining a similar listener experience to the other audio sources that are available,” he says, noting that in the past, some stations weren’t paying attention to their RDS output and receiver displays suffered, showing material that was either bad or disassociated with the programming.

The information contained in the NRSC Guideline is the work of the RDS Usage Working Group, a subgroup of the Radio Broadcast Data System Subcommittee of the NRSC. The principal author of the first version of this document is Alan Jurison, senior operations engineer — Engineering and Systems Integration with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. Radio World has published some of that material in a special RDS section.

The NRSC-G300, RDS Usage Guideline took some two years to craft; Clear Channel Radio SVP Engineering Steve Davis chairs the RUWG and KQED Public Radio Director, Radio Engineering and Media Technology Dan Mansergh chairs the RBDS Subcommittee.

The NRSC periodically reviews and updates its standards and guidelines. The AM and FM Analog Broadcasting Subcommittee reviewed and slightly revised three documents that are also available on the NRSC Website:

• NRSC-1-B, NRSC AM “Preemphasis/Deemphasis and Broadcast Audio Transmission Bandwidth Specifications”

• NRSC-2-B, “Emission Limitation for AM Broadcast Transmission”

• NRSC-G100-A, “Bandwidth Options for Analog AM Broadcasters”

Hammett & Edison Senior Engineer Stan Salek and Cumulus Broadcasting SVP Corporate Director of Engineering & IT Gary Kline co-chair the AFAB Subcommittee.